Britain says Iran has seized two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz



Britain says Iran has seized two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz

UK confirms two vessels taken, one of them British, in ‘unacceptable’ act; Iranian media says second ship released after being detained; US accuses Tehran of ‘escalatory violence’

This undated photo issued Friday July 19, 2019, by Stena Bulk, shows the British oil tanker Stena Impero at unknown location (Stena Bulk via AP)

This undated photo issued Friday July 19, 2019, by Stena Bulk, shows the British oil tanker Stena Impero at unknown location (Stena Bulk via AP)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, officials in London said, in a move that further raised tensions and infuriated American and British leaders.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said it had seized British oil tanker Stena Impero, claiming it “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules.”

US officials told CNN there were indications that Iran had seized a second vessel, the Liberian tanker MV Mesdar. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that Masdar had been detained by Iranian forces but was released and left Iranian waters.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that two ships had been seized, condemning the incidents as “unacceptable” and saying he was “extremely concerned” by the incidents.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt addresses the final Conservative Party leadership election hustings in London on July 17, 2019. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” he said in a statement. “These seizures are unacceptable.”

The government was to hold an emergency ministerial meeting later on Friday “to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels,” Hunt said.

Britain’s ambassador in Tehran was in contact with Iranian authorities “to resolve the situation,” he added.

Hunt later warned of “serious consequences” if the ships were not released.

“We will respond in a way is considered but robust, and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences,” he was quoted saying by Sky News.

“We’re not looking at military options, we are a looking at diplomatic way to resolve the situation,” he added.

Britain confirmed that one of the boats seized was British registered. The other was Liberian-flagged, but reported to be owned by British company Norbulk Shipping.

Fars reported the Liberian-flagged tanker was briefly detained in the Strait of Hormuz and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.

The UK is “urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a British government spokesperson said.

Asked about the latest incident as he departed the White House, President Donald Trump told reporters “We will talk to the UK. We’ll be working with the UK.”

He added: “This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran. Trouble. Nothing but trouble. It goes to show you I was right about Iran.”

US President Donald Trump talks to the press before departing from the South Lawn of the White House on July 19, 2019, in Washington, DC (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The US accused Iran of “escalatory violence,” with National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying: “The US will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behavior.”

The Swedish owners of the Stena Impero said the vessel had come under “attack” in the Strait of Hormuz.

Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management said in a statement that it “can confirm that… our managed vessel Stena Impero was attacked by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter while transiting the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in international waters.”

“We are presently unable to contact the vessel which is now tracking as heading north towards Iran,” it said.

UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Bob Sanguinetti said the seizure of a British oil tanker by Iranian forces represents an escalation in tensions in the Persian Gulf that makes it clear more protection for merchant vessels is urgently needed.

He said the action was “in violation of international regulations which protect ships and their crews as they go about their legitimate business in international waters.”

He called on the British government to do “whatever is necessary” to ensure the safe and swift return of the ship’s crew.

The announcement by the Guards came hours after the British territory of Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ruled that a seized Iranian tanker suspected of breaching sanctions by shipping oil to Syria can be detained for 30 more days.

The Grace 1 supertanker, carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil, was intercepted by British Royal Marines and Gibraltar’s police on July 4 as it transited through waters claimed by Gibraltar, which is located on Spain’s southern tip.

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Thursday he had had a “constructive and positive” meeting with Iranian officials in London aimed at defusing tensions around the detention of the tanker in the British territory’s waters.

Gibraltar and US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.

Iran has reacted with fury to what it termed “piracy” and warned it would not let the interception go unanswered.

Last week, a British warship in the Gulf warned off armed Iranian boats that tried to stop a UK supertanker. London has since announced the deployment of two more warships to the Gulf region for the coming months.

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2019, Iranian soldiers take part in the ‘National Persian Gulf Day’ in the Strait of Hormuz. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

The Gibraltar court ruling comes as tensions in the Gulf region mounted Friday after Washington said an Iranian drone was destroyed after threatening a US naval vessel at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz.

It was believed to be the first US military engagement with Iran following a series of increasingly serious incidents. Iran has denied losing any drones.

On Thursday the Guards said they’d seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil. The vessel appeared to be a United Arab Emirates-based tanker that had disappeared off trackers in Iranian territorial waters.

Iran’s state television did not identify the seized vessel or nationalities of the crew, but said it was intercepted on Sunday. It said the oil tanker had 12 foreign crew members on board and was involved in smuggling some 1 million liters (264,000 gallons) of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers.


U.K. warns Iran of “serious consequences” if tanker isn’t released



U.K. warns Iran of “serious consequences” if tanker isn’t released

Britain is warning Iran of what it describes as “serious consequences” if Iran does not release a British-flagged tanker it seized in the Persian Gulf. Iran claims the tanker collided with an Iranian fishing boat in the Strait of Hormuz.

“We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Friday. “We’re not looking at military options, we’re looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation, but we are very clear that it must be resolved.”

Germany and France on Saturday also called on Iran to release the tanker. President Trump on Friday commented on the increasing tension in the strategic oil shipping route. “Trouble, nothing but trouble,” he said from the White House.

CBS News was traveling in Afghanistan with General Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, when the two British tankers were seized. McKenzie told CBS News exactly what happened: the first ship was flying a British flag as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

“She was fired upon, subsequently boarded, taken under Iranian custody and is now deep in Iranian territorial waters,” McKenzie explained.

Iran Persian Gulf Tensions
A British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero which was seized by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is shown in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on Saturday, July 20, 2019.   TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/VIA AP

The second British tanker was flying a Liberian flag. “The Iranians boarded her. We believed they searched for British persons, found none and then allowed her to continue her voyage,” he added.

Three hours later an American-flagged cargo ship, the Maersk Chicago, went through the strait with what McKenzie called “iron overhead” meaning F-18 fighter jets flying air cover. The Iranians left it alone. The U.S. now has warships stationed at either end of the strait.

“Do those destroyers have orders to intervene if they see another ship hijacking?” CBS News asked.

“They would only do so in the case of a U.S. flag vessel coming under attack,” McKenzie said.

Mr. Trump has made clear he does not want war with Iran. McKenzie told CBS News the U.S. military is determined not to overreact.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News’ National Security Correspondent.

5 Fairy Tale Castles in Europe




Fairy Tale Castles in Europe

Fairy tales are meant to transport us to different realms, which is precisely what these five castles in Europe also do. Their architecture, setting and enticing histories make visitors feel like they too will live happily ever after.

Eilean Donan, Scotland

Eilean Donan, Scotland

Credit: paulmerrett/iStock

Melancholic, solitary and robust are some of the terms that define Eilean Donan. Probably the most popular castle in Scotland, it is located on the top of an island on Loch Duich and has been used as a stage for a number of films. A sole glance will bring to mind traditional bagpipes and the fairy tale troops scenes where soldiers and horses gallop through the stone arch bridge. During the winter months, the fog is very heavy around the castle, creating a mysterious air.

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Credit: PytyCzech/iStock

While the castle is an incredible construction, it’s necessary to highlight all of Prague, with its cathedral, palaces and streets. In winter, the contrast between snowflakes and street lights paint a beautiful picture. The statues on the Charles Bridge always capture attention.

Indeed, Prague itself is like a fairy tale. A succession of ambitious rulers kept on improving the original Czech buildings dating back to the ninth century, meaning that we can now see a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles.

And Prague Castle is an idyllic place that seems to truly come from a fairy tale. The sun’s rays sneak between the different spaces, giving it a magical air.

Tintagel Castle, England

Tintagel Castle, England

Credit: jax10289/iStock

Another enchanting location that brings to mind the story of a child who drew a sword from a stone to become king. In effect, the legend of King Arthur has always been related to the island of Tintagel, which Richard, Earl of Cornwall probably knew when he ordered for the castle to be built in the year 1233.

Today, what has remained of Tintagel Castle immerses visitors in a very eerie atmosphere, for it stands between ruins, a cliff and calm surroundings right next to the Atlantic.

Pena Palace, Portugal

Pena Palace, Portugal

Credit: JoselgnacioSoto/iStock

In Sintra, it’s impossible to take a step without tripping over a palace or castle. Visitors can explore the ruins of Castelo dos Mouros, which offers wonderful views of the city, and the fantastic Quinta da Regaleira. However, you can truly feel like you’re living in a fairy tale in the Pena Palace, which stands out in the town center because of its tall chimneys.

Somewhere buried under the walls of the current structure, are the remains of a medieval convent. And this is only one of the treasures that it hides inside. The Palace is actually divided into three buildings, linked by a succession of fountains, courtyards and different rooms. The tiles are also striking, bearing Moorish designs. It is one of the few medieval palaces of Islamic origin found in Portugal.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Credit: RudyBalasko/iStock

This 19th-century German castle is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful castles in the world. In fact, every year it receives thousands of visitors and has constantly been a source of inspiration for the cinema, most notably in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Located in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle stands in an area of ​​great natural beauty with lakes and mountains, a wonderful set that further enhances its spectacular and imposing presence. Even the smallest detail was taken into account in order to obtain an architectural masterpiece. Its interior is as astounding as the facade, with a large collection of handicraft pieces. Visitors can appreciate some incredible views of the Alps from inside of the main bedroom.

England: Gibraltar Extends to August 15 Detention of Iranian Tanker



Gibraltar Extends to August 15 Detention of Iranian Tanker

Friday, 19 July, 2019 – 11:00
Supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar on July 6, 2019. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Gibraltar will continue to impound an Iranian oil tanker until August 15 after its supreme court granted a 30-day extension to authorities, the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper said.

The paper said Gibraltar’s Attorney General, Michael Llamas, had confirmed the decision.

The Grace 1 was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said Britain would facilitate the release of the Grace 1 if Iran gave guarantees that the tanker would not go to Syria, once the issue had followed due process in Gibraltar’s courts.

On Thursday, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo held a “constructive and positive” meeting with Iranian officials in London to discuss the tanker.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday that Britain will facilitate the release the ship if Iran can provide guarantees the vessel will not breach the sanctions.

Iran has vowed to respond to what it calls Britain’s “piracy” over the seizure of the tanker and warned of reciprocal measures.

Last week, London said three Iranian vessels tried to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz, but backed off when confronted by a Royal Navy warship.

Iran denied that its vessels had done any such thing.

9 Beautiful European Cities By The Sea



Europe’s long and varied coastline is dotted with settlements whose inhabitants have, for centuries, made their living from the sea. Today, many feature historic mansions, charming historic squares and quaint harbors that draw as many tourists as fishermen. Though some have grown into cities, others are constrained by the physical landscape to remain impossibly beautiful coastal towns.

Rovinj, Croatia

Credit: concept w/Shutterstock

The gem of Istria covers a tiny headland, huddled around a harbor full of fishing boats. For centuries, the steeple of St Euphemia has risen like a beacon from the mass of terracotta roofs which surround it. On the ground, explore cobbled streets and narrow alleyways to discover a liberal scattering of gift shops, cafés and bijou apartments.

Portree, Scotland

Credit: Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock

The largest town on Scotland’s Isle of Skye welcomes visitors with the sight of rows of brightly-painted cottages. Life centers around the busy harbor, but those with time on their hands are advised to take a hike. The Scorrybreac trail and the path up the headland known locally as The Lump are two of the best local walks.

Oia, Greece

Credit: Zick Svift/Shutterstock

Few Greek towns have made such an impact as Santorini’s Oia, and you only have to set eyes on the place to understand why. The town’s whitewashed homes and businesses cling to the rocky flanks of the dormant volcano overlooking the azure lake that fills its caldera. Its intense beauty has drawn artists and photographers for years, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Vernazza, Italy

Credit: canadastock/Shutterstock

Though visitors would not be disappointed with any of the Cinque Terre settlements, there’s something about Vernazza that’s especially compelling. The cupola-topped bell tower of Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church stands tight against the waterfront but for the best views, climb the steps to the tower of the ruined Castello Doria and look out over the glittering sea.

Tavira, Portugal

Credit: anyaivanova/Shutterstock

There are many contenders for stunning coastal towns along Portugal’s beautiful Algarve, but Tavira is a stand out. The town itself is located inland of a long sandy beach and the salt pans are home to a wide variety of seabirds including waders, spoonbills and flamingos. In the heart of the medieval town, you’ll find a castle built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque and Santa María do Castelo Church, which houses the tombs of seven knights allegedly ambushed by the Moors.

Visby, Sweden

Credit: Pixelheld/Shutterstock

Located on the Baltic coast, the Hanseatic port of Visby lies on the island of Gotland. Its 13th-century ramparts, historic warehouses and the former homes of wealthy merchants make this one of the most delightful towns in Sweden. Pull up a chair at one of the pavement cafés that grace Stora Torget, the main square, and people watch over a cup of coffee. But when you can drag yourself away, the Gotland Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the town’s Viking past.

Cadiz, Spain

Credit: Stefano Zaccaria/Shutterstock

In their rush to tick off the sights of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, visitors sometimes overlook Cadiz, but to do so would be a shame. In the 17th and 18th centuries, merchants built watchtowers to ensure they knew their ships had returned to port. Today, 126 of the 160 remain. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Camera Obscura at the top of Torre Tavira before taking a stroll at ground level to gaze up at these interesting structures.

Aeroskobing, Denmark

Credit: valeriiaarnaud/Shutterstock

Nicknamed “the fairytale town of Denmark,” Aeroskobing, or Ærøskøbing as it’s written in Danish, is a stunner of a coastal town. Cobbled streets, winding alleyways and historic houses give the place bags of character. Don’t miss the Priors House, which dates from 1690, the town’s cook house – built to reduce the risk of fire breaking out on the wooden boats that docked in port – and Ærøskøbing Church in the market square, the third to grace this spot.

Fowey, England

Credit: ian woolcock/Shutterstock

Pronounced “Foy,” well-heeled Fowey made its money on the export of china clay, which these days manifests itself in the pastel-colored houses and cosy pubs that jostle for position around this characterful Cornish harbor. The town that inspired Daphne du Maurier to write Rebecca makes a handy base for sampling the famous local mussels and for exploring the rest of the Polperro heritage coastline.

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

Enjoy this article? Share it with a friend

Why do we fly flags at half-staff?



Why do we fly flags at half-staff?

In somber times, we recognize the flag at half-staff as a symbol of a nation in mourning. The practice is observed in nearly every country across the world in mourning of important figures or events and is always related to death. Theories regarding the origins of the practice are contentious, but it has a long history extending to at least the 17th century.

In the United States, one of the earliest accounts of the flag being flown at half-staff was to mourn the passing of none other than George Washington himself by the Vessels of the Navy. However, the practice dates back even further than the birth of the United States.

An unfortunate venture

Credit: jimfeng / iStockPhoto

In the early 1600s, King Christian IV of Denmark sent out expeditions to locate ancient Norse settlements and take them in the name of his country. William Hall led one of these expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage when he came upon a group of Inuit. Unbeknownst to Hall, he was following in the steps of Scottish explorer John Cunningham, who had taken four Inuit as prisoners during his expedition. When Hall encountered the Inuits, he was attacked and killed. His crew members retreated. The rest of his crew steered the ship away to flee. Upon their return, the crew members hung the flag at half-staff, accounting for the earliest account of the practice, to commemorate their captain’s death.

The black flag

Credit: tzahiV / iStockPhoto

Hall’s story still relies upon some inherent symbolic meaning behind lowering the flag. Historians are divided on the initial symbolism behind the practice, but one popular theory proposes that it was to signify that the invisible flag of death flies above the lowered flag. This theory explains why the British only lower the flag by one flag-width rather than halfway down the staff as we do in America. It is thought that this practice grew from an earlier one in which a black flag was placed above the normal flag during times of mourning, but carrying the additional flag for rare use may have become cumbersome or seen as a bad omen for sailors. Other theories posit that the unkempt nature of flying the flag at half-staff signifies grief. Finally, it may have started as a symbolic salute to the fallen.

Across the world

Credit: Steven_Kriemadis / iStockPhoto

Flying the flag at half-staff is a widespread practice across world cultures to signify mourning. Some countries also place a black ribbon above their flag. The deaths of leaders are frequently signified by half-staff, but it may also signify historical or religious tragedies. In Russia, the flag is lowered on June 22 to commemorate the Nazi invasion of the USSR. In Israel it is lowered for Holocaust remembrance day. Almost every country in the world has a procedure or tradition in which they lower the flag to half-staff, but Saudi Arabia is one rare exception. The Saudi flag is an inscription of the Shahada, signifying the message of Islam. Because of this, lowering the flag is seen as blasphemous and therefore never practiced.

At home

Credit: Thomas Shanahan / iStockPhoto

In the United States, the flag is lowered to half-staff for a series of occasions including Memorial Day, September 11, and for deaths of members of congress, the Supreme Court, or the executive branch. Outside of these occasions, the President of the United States can issue an executive order to fly the flag at half-staff across all government buildings, public schools, and military bases. Governors may also issue a similar order within the boundaries of their state. Failing to comply with either order does not incur a fine, as doing so would violate the First Amendment.

5 things you didn’t know about Queen Elizabeth



5 things you didn’t know about Queen Elizabeth

The Queen is alive and well. Queen Elizabeth II is 93 years old and has been the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom since 1952, but she shows no sign of slowing down—even after living one of the most eventful lives in modern history. Much of her life has been heavily documented, but here are the five things you did not know about the longest-ruling monarch in British history.

She has 30 godchildren

Credit: Lorna Roberts /

The Queen has 30 godchildren, and honestly, who wouldn’t want the Queen as a godmother? It is a sweet deal. Her first Godchild, Guy Rupert Gerard Nevill, was born on March 29, 1945; the Queen was just 19 years old when she became his godmother. Guy is the son of Lord Rupert Nevill and Lady Anne Camilla Wallop. He held office as a patron of honor to Queen Elizabeth from 1958-1961. Unfortunately, Guy died in 1992. The Queen’s last godchild is Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, born in 1983. Princess Theodora is the daughter of Greek King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie.

She’s on Facebook

Credit: Chinnapong /

Yes, like billions of us commoners, the Queen joined Facebook. Back in November of 2010, she created a page called “The British Monarchy” that features photos, videos, and speeches—however, it is not possible to private message the Queen or send her a post through the website. Queen Elizabeth joined other social media sites as well—she was on Twitter before Facebook back in 2009. As would be expected, none of the royals tweets themselves. They have their public relations staff do social media, and a team at Buckingham Palace tweets daily updates on the Queen’s Twitter page.

She’s received some weird gifts

Credit: marktucan / Shutterstock

During the Queen’s reign, she has received countless gifts. However, some weird gifts have caught her by surprise. She has received quite a lot of live animals as gifts; among the more unusual ones were a jaguar and sloth from Brazil, and black beavers from Canada. These animals have been placed in the London Zoo. The Queen also accepted pineapples, eggs, a box of snail shells, maple trees, and 15 pounds of prawns. Maybe people should stick to flowers instead of sending weird gifts.

She gives her staff Christmas pudding

Credit: Nicholas Provan /

Even though the Queen completes her daily royal duties, she always shows her staff appreciation. Every Christmas she gives them Christmas pudding. Over the years, it is estimated that she has given out 90,000 Christmas puddings. The Queen does this to continue the tradition of King George V and King George VI. Furthermore, the Queen also gives her entire staff Christmas gifts. She is a patron to over 600 charities and sends out presents to schools and cathedrals. On top of that, she also does a Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth every single year, except in 1969. In that year, a repeat of the royal family was shown, and a written message from the Queen was issued.

She owns a lot of swans and dolphins

Credit: simonbradfield / iStock

The queen owns all the swans and dolphins in the U.K. waters. As early as the 12th century, the British monarch laid claim to all the mute swans in the country. Back then, the birds were considered a delicacy. Today, the Queen does not eat the swans, but she technically still owns them. The Swan Upping is an annual swan-counting event—yes, over the course of several days the Queen’s swan squad counts the birds and make sure they are healthy.

According to the Montreal Gazette, if she wanted to, the Queen could claim ownership of all royal fishes. These include dolphins, whales, and anything that resides in the waters around the United Kingdom.

As we have seen throughout her reign, the Queen takes her responsibilities seriously. However, it is lovely to know that she has a sense of humor. She enjoys flipping a coin to “me or tails,” plays “Great Balls of Fire” on the piano, and gets laughter from dinner guests for her mental arithmetic. Being the Queen is great!

5 European Hotels That Will Take You Back in Time



5 European Hotels That Will Take You Back in Time

The cities that make up the landscape of Europe have pasts that stretch back through every era of civilization. And the many grand, opulent hotels throughout the continent are evidence of the centuries of culture that shaped their home countries. Take a step back in time on your next trip to Europe by staying at one of these five hotels with long histories and a commitment to preserving an older way of life.

Grand Hotel Zermatterhof

Credit: olli0815 / iStock

Zermatt, Switzerland

Be transported to a distant past with a stay in the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, located below the iconic Matterhorn mountain. Your journey begins with a carriage ride from the train station to the car-free town of Zurich, one of the best cities to retreat to from the bustle of urban Europe. The historic Grand Hotel Zermatterhof has been hosting guests since 1879 and places a premium on a stay that celebrates the past.

In the summer months, the Zermatterhof makes a great place to embark on outdoor adventures in the rugged Swiss mountain country. In the winter, the hotel is located just 700 meters from the Matterhorn Ski Paradise, giving you access to some of the best skiing in the world.

The Olde Bell

Credit: Miranda Hodgson / Wikimedia

Hurley, Berkshire, England

The oldest hotel on this list, The Olde Bell was opened in 1135, almost 900 years ago. You will see traces of this ancient history on the claw foot bathtubs and the charming farm home décor with dark wood floors and sheepskin throws. The hotel has seen many famous guests and historic events—including when it hosted the meeting of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill during the Second World War.

The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

Credit: Arne Beruldsen /

Sorrento, Italy

The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, located on the Gulf of Naples, has been operated by the Fiorento family since it opened in 1834. The hotel has seen famous figures such as Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe stay in the beautiful suites. You will feel whisked away to a bygone era of romantic opulence and comfort while you enjoy your stay at the Excelsior Vittoria.

The Lutetia

Credit: UlyssePixel /

Paris, France

Dive into Paris’ history of art, literature and culture at this wonderful hotel on the Left Bank. Here you will find the famous Belle Epoque’s “palace hotels” such as Hôtel Providence, which will give you a chance to explore the busy commercial heart of Paris that inspired great works of art in the early 20th century.

The Lutetia was opened across from The Bon Marche, the world’s first department store, at the height of one of the great eras of French cultural achievement. Since its construction, the Lutetia has hosted significant figures in the art world such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Matisse, and Picasso. Even the name evokes an ancient past: Lutetia was the name the Romans used for Paris.

Hotel Interlaken

Credit: Paebi / Wikimedia

Interlaken, Switzerland

Another hotel that has stood for centuries, Hotel Interlaken has been hosting guests for centuries. Hotel Interlaken was built in 1323 and first served as a cloister house run by nuns and monks for tired travelers. Hotel Interlaken served many other functions during these early years and was even used as a court room at one point.

Hotel Interlaken was converted to a hotel in 1491. The hotel is located a mere six-minute walk from the nearest train station and features cozy, rustic, and chic décor, plus a woodsy restaurant featuring a modern take on classic Swiss cuisine.

These hotels and the many others that can be found in European cities and countrysides will help you relax and enjoy the grand history of the European continent. Enjoy your travels abroad and take time to appreciate the luxuries afforded by these excellent hotels.

UK Ambassador to the US calls Trump Inept, Insecure and Incompetent



Diplomatic cables sent from the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States back to London describe President Donald Trump as “inept,” “insecure” and “incompetent,” a UK government official confirmed Saturday to CNN.

The leak could cause serious diplomatic damage between the two “special relationship” allies.
While foreign envoys of all nations are often candid in classified dispatches back home, there are periodic episodes when such assessments leak, causing great political embarrassment. Months of efforts by the ambassador, Kim Darroch and his diplomats to build ties and trust with Trump and his political acolytes will be undermined.
The cables were leaked to and first published by the Daily Mail.
Darroch used secret cables and briefing notes to warn the UK government that Trump’s “career could end in disgrace,” and described conflicts within the White House as “knife fights,” according to the Daily Mail.
A UK government source told CNN the memos described in the Daily Mail story are genuine.
The Daily Mail says the memos span the period between 2017 to present day, covering everything from Trump’s foreign policy to his 2020 reelection plans.
In one memo dated June 22, according to the Daily Mail, Darroch questioned Trump’s claim that he pulled back from retaliating against Iran last month after the downing of a US drone because the President was told at the last minute that US air strikes could kill 150 Iranians.
He also said in a cable to the Foreign Commonwealth Office that while he believed Trump can’t afford to lose much support, he thinks there’s still a “credible path” for his reelection.
The White House told CNN it had no comment on the story.
The leaked cables come at a sensitive time in UK politics with Conservative Party members currently electing a new prime minister to succeed Theresa May, who was effectively toppled by her own members of Parliament for failing to deliver on her country’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union.
“The British public would expect our Ambassadors to provide Ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country. Their views are not necessarily the views of Ministers or indeed the government. But we pay them to be candid. Just as the US Ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities,” a statement from the British FCO said.
“Of course we would expect such advice to be handled by Ministers and civil servants in the right way and it’s important that our Ambassadors can offer their advice and for it remain confidential. Our team in Washington have strong relations with the White House and no doubt that these will withstand such mischievous behaviour,” the statement continued.
The favorite for the job, Boris Johnson, is seen as likely to seek to forge a much closer relationship to Trump than May, who made strenuous efforts to court the President and developed a respectful relationship but never really bonded with him politically. If it leaves the EU, Britain will be seeking to seal a bilateral trade deal with the US and Trump is expected to drive a hard bargain. So there will be speculation that the leak of Darroch’s memos was a politically motivated act by someone in London to clear space in Washington for an outspokenly pro-Brexit ambassador.
Darroch also used to work as national security adviser to former British Prime Minister David Cameron and as a top UK representative to the EU, so although he’s a career diplomat, he is not seen as philosophically aligned with the crowd of hardcore Brexiteers expected to take over 10 Downing Street.
Johnson is unpredictable, politically incorrect, a populist and deeply critical of the EU and is often accused of blurring facts — traits which he shares with Trump.
There is so far no reaction from the President’s Twitter feed.
But Trump has never felt constrained from criticizing the British government.
Several times, he has embarrassed May after criticizing her handling of Brexit negotiations. He plunged into Britain’s internal affairs in June by openly rooting for various Conservative candidates in the leadership elections. And he has waged a long-running feud with London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
Trump also raised some eyebrows in the UK by repeatedly praising Nigel Farage, one of the most prominent campaigners for Brexit.
Trump has in the past suggested Farage, whom he called “a friend of mine,” should become the UK ambassador to the US. That idea was quickly ruled out by Downing Street.
Farage rushed to Trump’s defense on Sunday, tweeting: “Kim Darroch is totally unsuitable for the job and the sooner he is gone the better.”
Darroch had been riding high on the success of Trump’s trip to the UK in June which largely went off without a hitch. His position with the Trump administration however now looks difficult at best. Though his memos are deeply sensitive given the source, the unflattering depiction of the Trump White House is one that will be recognizable to readers of US media outlets.
This story has been updated with additional developments and context.

Senior Iranian cleric says UK should be ‘scared’ of Tehran’s response over ship



Senior Iranian cleric says UK should be ‘scared’ of Tehran’s response over ship

Member of powerful Assembly of Experts says Britain should fear retaliation in response to interception of oil tanker suspected of violating EU sanctions

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

A senior Iranian cleric was quoted Saturday as saying the UK should be “scared” about possible retaliation over the detention of an Iranian ship in Gibraltar on suspicion of carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

“I am openly saying that Britain should be scared of Iran’s retaliatory measures over the illegal seizure of the Iranian oil tanker,” said Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the powerful clerical body the Assembly of Experts, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, quoted by the Reuters news agency.

“We have shown that we will never remain silent against bullying… As we gave a staunch response to the American drone, the appropriate response to this illegal capture [of the tanker] will be given by Iran as well,” he said, referring to the downing of a US drone last month which Washington insists was over international waters but Tehran says was inside its airspace.

The statement came after a former leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Friday threatened to seize a British tanker in retaliation.

FILE — Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, center left, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in Khuzestan province Ayatollah Mousavi Jazayeri, right, sit as Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, right, walks to sit at the Bandar Imam Petrochemical Company (BIPC) facility during an official opening ceremony in Mahshahr, Iran, June 11, 2005 (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

“If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities duty to seize a British oil tanker,” tweeted Mohsen Rezaei, who is now secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a powerful state body.

“Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies,” Rezaei wrote.

The IRGC is the elite military unit, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that took responsibility for the downing of a US drone last month.

Rezaei led the elite Guard during Iran’s 1980s “Tanker War” in the Persian Gulf targeting the oil trade of the US and its Arab allies.

FILE — In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, former commander of the Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezaei, second left, salutes Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, while he arrives at a graduation ceremony of the Revolutionary Guard’s officers, in Tehran, Iran (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, FILE)

Iran demanded earlier Friday that Britain immediately release the oil tanker, accusing it of acting at the bidding of the United States.

A senior foreign ministry official “described the UK move as unacceptable” in a meeting with British Ambassador Rob Macaire, who had been summoned to hear a formal protest, the ministry said in a statement.

He “called for the immediate release of the oil tanker, given that it has been seized at the request of the US, based on the information currently available,” the statement added.

The detention of the 330-meter (1,000-feet) Grace 1 vessel comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it breached the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in a troubled 2015 nuclear deal.

A British Royal Navy ship (L) patrols near supertanker Grace 1, which is suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, after it was detained off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

The Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines.

The ship was detained 2.5 miles (four kilometers) south of Gibraltar in what it considers British waters, although Spain, which lays claim to the territory, says they are Spanish.

It was boarded when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to vessels.

“We have reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria,” Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement.

“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.

“We have detained the vessel and its cargo,” Picardo said.

At US request

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told reporters the vessel was detained at the request of the United States.

In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Office said “we welcome this firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime.”

European Union sanctions against war-torn Syria have been in force since late 2011.

The 28-member bloc has imposed sanctions on Syrian officials including government ministers over their role in the “violent repression” of civilians.

It has frozen the assets of around 70 entities and introduced an embargo on Syrian oil, investment restrictions and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the EU.

In this photo from April 9, 2018, released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani listens to explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark ‘National Nuclear Day,’ in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP, File)

The tanker’s detention comes just days after Iran announced it would exceed the uranium enrichment limit set up as part of the 2015 deal to avoid it building up to the level required for a nuclear warhead.

Tehran took the action in response to Washington abandoning the nuclear deal last year and hitting Iran’s crucial oil exports and financial transactions with biting sanctions.

The unilateral move has sent tensions in the Gulf soaring as the administration of US President Donald Trump forges ahead with a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran in coordination with its Middle East allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, a champion of the hawkish policy toward Tehran, applauded the interception of the supertanker.

“Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” Bolton tweeted.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton, right, listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

According to specialized shipping trade publication Lloyd’s List, which analyses vessel-tracking data, the 1997-built ship is laden with Iranian oil.

It reported that the ship loaded oil off Iran in April and sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.